#4/#6 St. Cloud State University Huskies (1-0-0 | 0-0-0 NCHC) vs University of Alaska Nanooks (0-1-1 | 0-0-0 WCHA)
TV: Fox Sports North | Fox College Sports (both nights)
Live Stats: SCSU Athletics
Tickets: SCSU Athletics
Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
When: Friday, October 13 – 7:37 P CT | Saturday, October 14 – 7:07 PM CT
Last Time Out:
The Nanooks hosted the Air Force Academy in a non-conference series last weekend losing the Friday contest by a 3-1 score and earning a 1-1 overtime tie in the Saturday rematch. On Friday, the difference in the game was two power play goals by the Falcons despite being outshot 34-26 by the Nanooks. On Saturday, in a tight contest, the teams skated to a 1-1 overtime tie. Anton Martinsson backstopped UAF both games in goal stopping 47 of 51 (.921 SV%) shots on goal for the weekend.
The Huskies earned a tough 4-0 win over top-ranked WCHA opponent MSU Mankato on the road last Saturday. In a very physical and high energy game, the Huskies relied on junior defensive leaders Jimmy Schuldt and Jon Lizotte to stake them to a 2-0 lead in the eventual shut out. Other goals were scored by Jacob Benson and Jack Poehling (EN) in this key non-conference win. Goaltender, Jeff Smith stopped all 42 shots he faced in an outstanding outing and was named NCHC Goaltender of the Week. Jimmy Schuldt was named NCHC Defensive Player of the Week after picking up a goal and an assist for a two point game.
Last Time They Met:
The two squads last met on 10/9/15 in Alaska and the Huskies secured a 3-0 win with current Huskies Judd Peterson and Winiecki getting goals. The teams also met in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage on 10/7/11 with the Huskies winning once again by a 4-1 score despite being outshot 24-15. Goal scorers in that game were Nic Dowd, Travis Novak, Ben Hanowski and Drew LeBlanc. Current goaltender coach, Mike Lee earned the victory in goal with a 21 save performance.
The Huskies hold an all-time 7-6-0 winning record over Alaska and a 6-3-0 advantage a the Division One level. Coach Motzko is 2-0 all-time vs the Nanooks. The last time Alaska visited St. Cloud was on January 6/7,1989.
Scouting the Alaska Nanooks:
Alaska looks to improve upon their 11-13-4 | 12-20-4 overall record in 2016-17. The Nanooks had few but several important losses from last years team. Foremost was the departure of eight-year head coach Dallas Ferguson to the WHL. Long-time assistant Lance West was promoted to head coach to replace Ferguson.
The Nanooks lost four seniors including captains Josh Erickson and Brandon Morley and leading scorer Marcus Basara. Also lost was sophomore goaltender Jesse Jenks. However, they had no losses on the blue line making that a position of experience and strength heading into the 2017-18 season. The team does return their top two points scorers in forward Chad Stanley and defenseman Zach Frye to lead their offense. Sophomore forward Troy Van Teetering will also be counted on for offense. At goaltender, Anton Martinsson has been anointed the starter thus far and played both contests vs Air Force last weekend and stopped over 92 percent of the shots thrown at him.
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
Experience, depth and improved goaltending should lead the Huskies to success in 2017-18. The Huskies were picked to finish 2nd in the tough NCHC conference in the preseason coaches poll. In particular, the junior class consisting of eight returning players will be expected to carry a heavy load both on offense and defense.
With a great deal of depth and experience at defense this will be a position of strength for the Huskies and one of the top units in college hockey. Led by junior and captain, Jimmy Schuldt, a preseason NCHC All-Conference team pick, the Huskies will have an impressive top four unit averaging close to 33 games last season. This unit also contributed well to the offense adding 19 goals and 43 assists for 62 points last season. Sophomore Jack Ahcan was named to the All-NCHC Rookie team and led the defense with 5 goals and 16 assists for 21 points. The unit is rounded out by junior Will Borgen, a Buffalo Sabres draft pick (2-10-12) and junior Jon Lizotte(4-6-10) who continues to play at a high level. Veteran players Clark Kuster and Mika Ilvonen both took a red-shirt year in 2016-17 but look to insert themselves into the lineup this season.The unit will also be pushed by newcomers, Tyler Anderson (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Lucas Jaycox (Warroad, MN). Both of these players should see time in the defensive rotation this season.
There is a lot of excitement at forward with the return of six upper classmen (4 juniors | 2 seniors) to provide leadership and experience to this squad. Seniors Judd Peterson and Blake Winiecki are proven goal scorers and combined for 23 goals in 2016-17. However, Judd Peterson was hampered by a bad hip which has been repaired in the off-season and he should be primed for a stellar senior campaign. The junior class consisting of Jacob Benson, Mikey Eyssimont, Robby Jackson and Patrick Newell have been lineup regulars since they were freshman and are expected to have a huge impact this season. This group of juniors contributed 37 goals and 96 points last season and the numbers can only go up this season. Sophomores Ryan Poehling, Nick Poehling and Jack Poehling were an impressive group of brothers last season, got stronger and gained more confidence as the season wore on and combined for 15 goals and 36 points. Ryan Poehling, still just an 18 year-old was a first round draft choice of the Montreal Canadians and is certain to be a member of the Team USA World Junior team this winter. Add to this group sophomore Jake Wahlin (6-6-12) and you have a highly effective sophomore class that will contribute more to the offense this season.
An intriguing group of junior hockey veterans and rookies round out the group of forwards. Easton Brodzinski (Blaine, MN) carries on the legacy of the Brodzinski family at SCSU following in the footsteps of his father Mike who was a prolific scorer for the Huskies from 1984 to 1987 compiling 146 points and brother Jonny, who netted 64 goals and added 48 assists for 112 points in just three seasons from 2012 to 2015. Blake Lizotte (Chisago Lakes, MN) was one of the top offensive stars in the USHL last season finishing second in the USHL in scoring with 65 points (19G, 46A) and in 56 games. His 46 assists also ranked second in the league, and he was fifth among all players with an average of 1.16 points/game. The Huskies have bolstered their depth at forward with the addition of veteran NAHL forward Kevin Fitzgerald. The 6′ 180 pound left-shooting forward from Hinsdale, IL most recently played for the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Junior Hockey League. Fitzgerald led the Wings in scoring with 22 goals and 37 assists for 59 points in 60 games. SCSU added a big body and seasoned junior hockey player in St. Cloud native Will Hammer.The St. Cloud Cathedral graduate put in three years and 169 games in the NAHL between the Aberdeen Wings and Minnesota Magicians prior to committing to the Huskies. The 20-year-old should assume his role as a big, strong forward that can help the Huskies offense and should immediately see some ice time for the Huskies in 2017-18.
There’s been a shake-up in the goaltender position since last season. 2016-17 part-time starter Zach Driscoll has opted to return to junior hockey for another season leaving juniors Jeff Smith and David Zevnik and newcomer David Hrenak to battle for playing time. With a year under his belt and nearly 1500 minutes of playing time in 2016-17 Jeff Smith should have the inside track as the #1 goaltender to start the season. His final numbers in 2016-17 included a 10-13-0 record, 2.77 GAA and .905 SV%. Numbers that will need to be improved upon if the Huskies are to have success this season. The Huskies solidified their goaltending position with the addition of David Hrenak, a 19 year-old from Povazska, Bystrica, Solvakia. Hrenak was a teammate of fellow recruit, Easton Brodzinski with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). In 33 games he was 15-14-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .923 SV% including four shutouts. He should provide strong competition to Smith at the goaltender position. David Zevnik will remain the third goaltender and provide added depth to the position.
The Huskies will certainly be favored on home ice in this weekend non-conference series. With more depth at every position the Huskies should have a distinct advantage.The Nanooks scored twice at home in last weekends series vs Air Force and will need to figure out a way to generate some offense. However, it will be difficult against the SCSU experience on the blue line. On the other hand, the SCSU coaching staff was not overly pleased with the lack of offensive production out of his veteran forwards last weekend vs Mankato. Most likely we’ll see some more tinkering with the SCSU forward lines this weekend. It’s not known at this time whether forward Mikey Eyssimont will be back in the lineup. Also, the coaching staff has been impressed by the play of Will Hammer in practice and although he was not in the lineup last weekend you may see him inserted in one game this weekend. Expect to see David Hrenak in goal for one of the contests this weekend and most likely on Saturday. On defense, I expect both Lucas Jaycox and Tyler Anderson to make an appearance and possibly both nights for Jaycox.
10/13/2017 Update: It appears Junior forward Mikey Eyssimont will make his first appearance of this season this weekend after being sidelined with an illness.
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